Within the space of 24 hours this week, WWE played crowned a new United States champion, and then yanked the rug out from underneath him, in what is the latest example of myopic booking.
On Raw, we saw Kalisto upset Alberto Del Rio and become the newest United States champion, leaving many to speculate as to where this would head. With Kalisto’s tag team partner, Sin Cara, currently on the shelf with (surprise!) a shoulder injury, were WWE pulling the trigger in their latest attempt to create a Mexican superstar? (even though Kalisto was born in Chicago) Would Kalisto be the next Rey Mysterio? Would he get a lengthy, credible run with the title, cementing his place on the roster as a star?
WWE immediately announced that Del Rio would be getting his rematch on SmackDown, taped the very next night. That raised a few eyebrows, especially given that the Royal Rumble would be taking place just ten days after this week’s SmackDown aired in the US… and those eyebrows remained elevated once the spoilers were revealed. Kalisto dropped the title. So, to paraphrase the words of many fans: what was the point of that?!
Kalisto’s one-day reign makes him the shortest reigning US champion since WWE revived the title in 2003 (and joint second in the history of the title), and one of nineteen individuals who have held a currently-active WWE title for a day or less. Granted, from those nineteen guys, only Dean Douglas didn’t enjoy a successful career in WWE, but whilst it’s definitely too soon to say whether Kalisto’s short title run has helped or harmed him, it certainly does add to a greater problem that the company has had for quite a while now.
Back when I started watching WWE, in the days where Vince McMahon called out “back body drop!” with gusto on virtually every show he did, the promotion had a slogan of sorts: “Anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation!”. In 2016, that slogan is still somewhat true, given that WWE is scripted and theoretically anything can happen (as long as the creative team is imaginative enough to think of it). However, at the end of the day, when WWE creates a shock by having something unexpected happen, it only really works when there is a thought out plan afterwards. For instance, when the 1-2-3 Kid upset Razor Ramon, that was the start of a storyline… likewise when Barry Horowitz defeated Skip. However, this is the first time where we’ve seen a champion defeated in an upset, only to recover the title 24 hours later, in a move that was probably designed to get eyeballs on SmackDown following the shows move to the USA Network.
So, what lesson should we learn? Should WWE decide to put the title back on Kalisto, they’ll actually be making the situation worse, as Kalisto has already had his moment in the sun, and likewise, the fans have already been burned by having dared to believe in him. Silly us, why should we have ever thought that Kalisto would ever be more than a bit part player? After all, we all saw how successful Rey Mysterio was as a champion nearly ten years ago, so why would someone ever so slightly smaller than Rey ever be successful?
Of course, these aren’t my thoughts, but given how badly Kalisto was portrayed, it certainly will make it hard for the wider audience to really believe in anyone new who doesn’t fit the WWE “type”. Too small? Too fat? Too generic? Masked? Sorry guys, but creative just threw a new hurdle in your direction!